Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day?
The word "breakfast" comes from the action of "breaking the fast" that occurs overnight after your last meal of the day and continues until you eat the next morning. For some of us, the length of time between this meal may be 12 hours or longer. While many people opt for a quick breakfast — or even no breakfast at all — there’s a multitude of proven health benefits to eating a regular, nutritious breakfast. If you’re ready to re-invigorate your mornings and boost your overall wellness, learn more about some of the most important potential health advantages of eating breakfast to get started.
It Boosts Energy and Nutrition
It may be tempting to choose a quick granola bar or protein bar as you rush out the door in the morning, but opting for a well-rounded, balanced breakfast may make quite a difference in how you feel throughout the day. Eating a healthy breakfast is an opportunity to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function its best.
Curious about what to put on your plate? Here are some suggestions:
Eggs: Eggs are extremely nutritious for their size. At an average of 77 calories per large egg, they also contain protein, healthy fats, calcium, and vitamins B6, B12 and D.
Whole grains: Whole grains are a source of complex carbohydrates, fiber and vitamins such as niacin, folate and thiamine. Whole grains can help decrease your risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease, lower your cholesterol, improve digestive regularity and increase feelings of fullness between meals. You can find whole grains in certain breads and granolas.
Vitamins C and D: Foods rich in vitamin D can help maintain your body’s calcium levels, which is crucial for building strong bones and teeth and for maintaining bone mass over time. Most people eat dairy products fortified with vitamin D to reach their recommended daily intake. Oranges, grapefruits and apples are excellent sources of vitamin C and can increase your body’s ability to absorb iron, help with immune system function and aid in the formation of collagen, which provides structure to many of the systems in your body.
It Improves Brain Function
Eating breakfast each morning can help your body establish a routine and may make the process of waking up feel a bit easier. Additionally, people who eat breakfast may find it easier to focus once they arrive at work or school. One study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion examined the effects of eating breakfast on the cognitive (brain) function of college students with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The study found that cognitive function was improved in both groups by eating a balanced breakfast.
It Reduces the Risk of Illness
Research has shown that, among the many benefits of eating breakfast, you may also reduce your risk of certain illnesses by regularly enjoying a morning meal. One study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that individuals who eat breakfast not only have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but that they also have lower total cholesterol levels compared to those who skip breakfast. Additionally, people who eat a morning meal have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
It Helps Control Weight and Decreases Overeating Tendencies
When you sleep, your metabolism tends to slow down. Eating breakfast can signal to your body that it should begin burning calories, while skipping breakfast may put your body into "conservation mode" in which calories are more likely to be retained than burned. In fact, studies show that those who skip breakfast are more likely to have a higher-than-normal body mass index compared to those who do eat breakfast.
Some people find that longer periods of fasting between meals contributes to the desire to binge eat, or consume more food than is nutritionally necessary in a single sitting. By eating meals at regular intervals and maintaining satiety (fullness), your desire to overeat may decrease. You may not feel very hungry when you initially wake up, but eating a healthy, balanced breakfast can help you plan and portion out your meals for the rest of the day.
It Positively Affects Your Mood
Many people are familiar with the irrationally negative feelings associated with skipping meals — "hangry" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018, after all. For people with medical conditions such as diabetes, not eating regularly enough can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can be a medical emergency. However, dips in blood sugar levels can also result in negative moods, and eating breakfast may have an even greater impact on our states of mind. One study showed that adults who regularly or always eat breakfast have lower depressive symptoms than adults who regularly skip breakfast. While these findings may be related to other factors, they also suggest that eating breakfast could improve our moods.
Breakfast Can Be Nutritious and Delicious
While the idea of cooking a full breakfast each morning may seem daunting, you can set yourself up for success by planning ahead. Try setting aside time each weekend to prepare food that you can refrigerate or freeze and eat throughout the week, such as breakfast burritos or waffles made with whole wheat flour. These items, supplemented with a side of fresh fruit, are an excellent way to ensure a healthy start to your day.
Medical content reviewed by Dr Samantha Miller, MBChB